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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Pregnant women warned about suspect pregnancy screenings

17 April 2007

Pregnant women in Britain have been warned about suspect pregnancy screenings by private clinics. Members of the Human Genetics Commission (HGC) raised concerns at their conference in Edinburgh over private clinics charging women for specialist Down's Syndrome screening tests which are carried out using nuchal translucency screening, a method which potentially involves distress for the mother and child. Dr Rosalind Skinner, Principal Medical Officer for Scotland, said that the shortages of testing on the Scottish NHS made the issue especially concerning. She said: "One concern is about the quality assurance of tests offered in the private sector. Very few services offer it on the NHS in Scotland ...The lack of regulations on this area is very worrying." [The Herald, 10 April]

A potential presidential candidate in America has said that he is personally opposed to abortion but believes that it is a woman's right to choose. Mr Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, made the comments in a speech in South Carolina as part of his presidential campaign. He said: "Ultimately I believe it's an individual right and a woman should make that choice." He confirmed previous statements that he would not seek to change the current abortion law in the US. [LifeSite, 10 April]

Adult stem cells from patients' own blood could be used to treat diabetes, according to American and Brazilian scientists. Researchers found that 14 out of 15 diabetes sufferers were no longer dependent on insulin injections after being treated with transfusions of stem cells from their own blood. Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the scientists said: "Very encouraging results were obtained. Ninety-three per cent of patients achieved different periods of insulin independence and treatment-related toxicity was low, with no mortality." [Telegraph, 11 April]

Seoul National University in South Korea is to investigate suspect claims of recent researchers to have successfully cloned wolves. Lee Byeong-chun, a former collaborator of disgraced stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk, is suspected of using faulty data in his results published in the journal Cloning and Stem Cells in which he claimed that his team had succeeded in cloning two wolves born in October 2005. The university's Committee on Research Integrity is to conduct tests into research samples from Professor Lee's lab to verify whether the clones are genuine. [Channel 4, 10 April]

Pregnant women in Africa are to be advised to sleep under insecticide treated mosquito nets (ITNs) in order to protect their unborn children from malaria. Research by the International Health Group at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine found that using ITNs reduced the number of miscarriages by one third in women in their first pregnancies, when they are most vulnerable, as well as the proportion of low-birth-weight babies. Women who had been using ITNs also had fewer parasites in their blood. Paul Garner, co-author of the review, said that the information "gives health professionals the ammunition they need to publicise the benefits of ITNs and get pregnant women using them." [Medical News Today, 8 April]

Smoking when trying to conceive or while pregnant strongly increases the likelihood of having a girl, according to British paediatricians. Researchers at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine investigated 9,000 deliveries at one Liverpool hospital and found that the chance of having a male baby drops by a third if the mother smokes in early pregnancy and by almost half if both parents smoke during early pregnancy. Professor Bernard Brabin, who led the research, is quoted as saying that the chances of having a girl are almost double if both parents smoke. [Independent, 8 April] No details are given in our source of whether or where the research has been published.

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